Learn how to make the best compost recipe with this step-by-step guide for beginners. Discover essential tips and the perfect recipe for rich, organic compost.

Composting is a simple and effective way to recycle organic waste and enrich your garden soil. Not only does composting reduce landfill waste, but it also provides essential nutrients that help plants thrive.

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a beginner, understanding how to make the best compost recipe can significantly improve your gardening results.

In this guide, I’ll walk you through a step-by-step process to create nutrient-rich compost, highlighting the right materials to use and avoid, and offering practical tips to ensure your composting success.

It’s pretty simple to do and is one of the best ways to improve your soil as well as keep plants healthy. Here’s everything you need to know!

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cut flower garden in nj in late summer

Benefits of Composting

There are several benefits to using compost in your gardens.

  • Compost helps build good soil structure.
  • It feeds earthworms and other microbes in the soil.
  • Compost helps maintain a neutral soil Ph level.
  • It helps retain moisture and air.
  • Adds nutrients to keep plants healthy and better protected from pests and disease.
garden nj shade garden

Key Ingredients for Perfect Compost

Compost is made of organic decomposed matter that includes:

  • leaves, twigs, grass, and other garden debris
  • kitchen waste from plant-based scraps
  • cardboard and other paper products like newspapers or plain paper plates. Be sure there are no plastic coverings on anything.

Compost is made when organic material like food scraps decompose over time. The decomposition becomes what we gardeners call “gold” because it is high in nutrients that enrich overall soil quality and promotes happy, healthy plants.

Fall Clean-Up

What Should You Avoid Adding to a Compost Recipe?

Before tossing things into the compost pile, be sure to exclude the following:

  • Fish
  • Meat scraps
  • Dairy, fats, and oils
  • Anything related to the black walnut tree – it’s toxic and prevents certain plants from growing.
  • Plants that suffered from pest or disease problems.
  • Weeds with seeds. I generally don’t compost them at all to avoid this problem.
  • Coal and Charcoal Ashes. Some ash from wood burning fireplace is OK but use very little.
  • Cat/Dog animal waste
  • Plants or wood waste that was treated with pesticides

How to Create the Best Compost Recipe

Composting is a natural process of breaking down organic matter into nutrient-rich soil. Here’s a recipe for making the best compost.

Essential Ingredients for Composting

It’s super simple to start composting. I used to have piles of compost but then I was gifted a tumbling composter several years ago and love it! Animals can’t get to the ingredients and it breaks things down a little quicker.

Here’s what you need:

  • Compost bin (make or buy)
  • Kitchen scraps (see above)
  • Yard or garden waste (see above)
  • Garden fork

Does Compost Turn Into Soil?

Since compost is made of organic material and soil includes other elements such as minerals and rocks, when mixed together, the result is amazing for plants. Thus, compost is considered to be a soil amendment that mixes with existing garden soil to improve its overall structure and health.

how to make the best compost recipe

Composting Methods

Understanding different composting methods can help you choose the best approach for your garden and lifestyle. Here are a few common methods:

Hot Composting

Hot composting is a fast method that produces compost in a few weeks. It requires regular turning and monitoring of temperature to keep it between 130-160°F.

Cold Composting

Cold composting is slower but less labor-intensive. Simply add materials to the pile and wait 6-12 months for it to decompose. This is the method I use in my gardens because of where I need to locate them on my property. It’s all shaded!


Vermicomposting uses worms to break down organic matter. This method is ideal for kitchen scraps and can be done indoors.

Trench Composting

Trench composting involves burying organic materials directly in the garden. This method is great for adding nutrients to specific garden areas without the need for a compost bin.

Bokashi Composting

Bokashi composting is an anaerobic process using a special inoculant to ferment kitchen waste. It’s efficient and can handle dairy and meat scraps.

A vibrant garden scene featuring clusters of pink and white yarrow flowers, with prominent pink coneflowers in the background and delicate white yarrow in the foreground. Growing yarrow with coneflowers
Pink flowers: yarrow and coneflowers

Compost Bin Options

Choosing the right compost bin can make your composting process more efficient and convenient. Here are some popular options:

Tumbling Composters

Tumbling composters are easy to use and accelerate the composting process by allowing you to turn the compost regularly. They’re great for small spaces and produce compost quickly. I have one and love mine!

Stationary Bins

Stationary bins are simple and affordable. They come in various sizes and are ideal for larger composting needs. However, they require manual turning with a pitchfork or compost aerator.

Worm Bins

Worm bins are perfect for vermicomposting and can be kept indoors or outdoors. They’re excellent for processing kitchen scraps and producing high-quality worm castings.

Compost Piles

Compost piles are the most basic and cost-effective option. They require no bin and can be scaled to fit your needs, but they need more space and manual maintenance. In my former garden, we made a DIY compost bin using wood pallets. It was a great way to use them and cost us nothing to make it!

Enclosed Bins

Enclosed bins keep compost contained and protected from pests. They are a tidy option for urban gardeners but might require more frequent maintenance to ensure proper aeration.

How to make the best compost recipe

Step-by-Step Directions for Composting

When making your compost recipe, it’s very similar to baking a cake, except you are doing it in pile outside. Whether you compost kitchen scraps or garden wastes, there are a few basic steps to follow.

What you include and how you do it are very important. So make sure you don’t incorporate anything from the what NOT to use list above.

  • Find a sunny spot in the yard to place the compost bin.
  • Choose a compost bin. You can make or buy one.
  • Place kitchen and yard waste into the bin.
  • Add or spread existing soil or compost over the compost pile.
  • Water the pile. To break down easier, materials should be damp to the touch.
  • Allow the pile to bake.
  • Mix the compost pile every few days or week with a garden fork to speed up the decomposition process. With my compost bin, I just need to flip it.
  • As the pile decomposes, it should appear dark and crumbly with bits of organic matter.

Troubleshooting Compost Recipe Issues

Even with the best intentions, composting can sometimes present challenges. Here are some common problems and how to address them:

Excess Moisture

  • Symptom: Compost is too wet or soggy.
  • Solution: Add more brown materials like leaves or straw, and turn the compost to improve aeration.

Foul Odor

  • Symptom: Compost has a bad smell.
  • Solution: Ensure a proper balance of green and brown materials. Turn the compost to introduce more oxygen.

Slow Decomposition

  • Symptom: Materials are not breaking down.
  • Solution: Chop materials into smaller pieces, turn the compost more frequently, and ensure the pile is moist but not too wet.

Pests and Rodents

  • Symptom: Unwanted animals in the compost.
  • Solution: Avoid adding meat, dairy, and oily foods. Use an enclosed bin to deter pests.
A garden scene with vibrant purple and white irises in the foreground. The background features a large wooden sculpture, lush greenery, and various plants. The sky above is slightly overcast, creating a serene and colorful landscape.

Seasonal Compost Recipe Tips

Adjusting your composting practices based on the season can help maintain efficiency year-round.


  • Kickstart the Pile: Turn the compost and add fresh green materials to reactivate the decomposition process after winter.


  • Maintain Moisture: Water the compost occasionally to prevent it from drying out in hot weather.
  • Turn Regularly: Frequent turning helps to manage the increased activity and heat.


  • Add Leaves: Fall is a great time to add plenty of fallen leaves, which are excellent brown materials.
  • Prepare for Winter: Build up the compost pile to retain heat through the colder months.


  • Insulate the Pile: Use straw or a tarp to keep the pile warm.
  • Continue Adding Materials: Keep adding kitchen scraps, but expect slower decomposition.
A vibrant garden filled with blooming hydrangeas in various colors, including blue, pink, and purple. The lush green leaves and surrounding foliage add to the lively and picturesque nature scene. A stone structure is visible in the background.

Making Compost Recipe FAQ

Composting can seem complex, especially for beginners, but it’s easier than you might think once you get the hang of it. To help you navigate any uncertainties, I’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions. These cover common issues, best practices, and tips to ensure your composting efforts are successful.

How long does it take to make compost?

Composting can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year, depending on the method and conditions. Hot composting can produce compost in 2-3 months, while cold composting might take up to a year.

What should I do if my compost recipe smells bad?

Bad smells usually indicate too much moisture or lack of oxygen. Add more brown materials like leaves or straw and turn the compost to introduce air.

Can I compost in the winter?

Yes, composting can continue in winter, though decomposition slows down. Insulate the pile with straw or a tarp and keep adding kitchen scraps.

How often should I turn my compost?

For hot composting, turn the pile every 1-2 weeks. Cold composting requires less frequent turning, about once a month or less.

Why is my compost recipe not breaking down?

Slow decomposition can be due to large material pieces, insufficient moisture, or lack of aeration. Chop materials into smaller pieces, ensure the pile is moist, and turn it regularly.

Can I compost pet waste?

No. It’s best to avoid composting pet waste from carnivorous animals like dogs and cats due to potential pathogens. Waste from herbivorous pets like rabbits can be composted.

A vibrant garden demonstrates the benefits of using a good compost recipe and features blooming pink roses and tall purple foxgloves in the foreground. The background includes a green fence adorned with decorative black figures, surrounded by lush greenery and trees. A terracotta pot adds a rustic touch to the scene. Cottage gardening in zone 6b New jersey

What I Use to Feed My Garden Flowers, Vegetables, and Herbs

I often get asked how I feed my garden flowers and plants. While I do use some fertilizers for my roses, annuals, and houseplants, compost is my go-to for nourishing all my perennials, shrubs, and trees.

Each spring and fall, I add a layer of compost to my gardens and container plantings. People are usually surprised that I don’t use more fertilizers, but with good soil, they just aren’t necessary.

One of the best ways to achieve rich soil is by making your own compost or buying quality compost from a garden nursery.

A vibrant garden features tall, vivid purple irises with intricate petals and bright green leaves. Yellow flowers and lush greenery adorn the background, along with a stone path and a neatly manicured lawn. Sunlight illuminates the scene, enhancing the colors.

Final Thoughts on Making the Best Compost Recipe

Composting is a rewarding process that benefits both your garden and the environment. By turning organic waste into nutrient-rich compost, you can enhance your soil’s structure, promote healthy plant growth, and reduce landfill waste.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced gardener, this guide provides you with the essential knowledge and tools to start composting effectively.

Remember, the key to successful composting lies in maintaining the right balance of materials, proper aeration, and patience. Happy composting, and enjoy the rich, fertile soil your garden will thrive in!

For more information about home composting, please read this article from the Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

To drill down on more beginner gardening techniques and tips, please read these posts:

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear! And feel free to share this post with anyone you think would find it helpful too.

Thank you for visiting the blog today!

Enjoy your day! xo

Stacy Ling bricksnblooms logo

Don’t Want to Make a Compost Bin? Shop Here

No matter what size home or property you have, there are compost bins readily available to fit your needs.

pitchfork stuck in dirt, and purple and yellow flowers while making the best compost recipe
Bearded Iris and Allium in the Cottage Garden
The Best Compost Recipe
How to Make the Best Compost Recipe
Dahlia 'Penhill Watermelon'
Tour my gardening zone 6a cottage gardens

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  1. Stacy, I’ve been composting for years and it’s such a great way to reduce up to 30% of your waste. And the condition of the compost soil is almost magical. Hard to believe all those scraps and dry material can create something so enriched. Thanks for sharing. Composting is truly one of the easiest gardening things to do.

    1. It is so easy and SO good for the gardens! Not to mention, you can get rid of scraps and stuff with much less waste! At our next house, I’m hoping to maintain a much larger pile than I have now.

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